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  1. #1

    Default Best way to handle a spooky horse?

    I have a 12 yr old who can be very spooky. He is very weary around motorbikes especially and will attempt to bolt with me. When he is like this he becomes very strong and i really have to fight to control him. He also has the tendency to get a bit joggy at the beginning of the ride which i deal with (he does listen when i ask him back for a walk but will keep attempting to jog). I am a small, light weight rider and he knows this, i ride him in a loose ring french link snaffle with a flash.
    He also will attempt to nap and spin when hacking alone.

    Can anyone give me some advice on how to get him out of these habits? I have thought about changing his bit into something a little stronger to give me a bit of help when he is being very strong but then i do prefer to keep the snaffle as i don't like harsh bits.

    What is the best way to go about controlling a bolt? or preventing a bolt?

    I am looking for any kind advice on my situation, the motorbikes are a very bad point because as soon as i hear a motorbike i fear he will bolt, which obviously feeds into him and makes him panic more!. I want to get past this issue but don't quite know where to start.

    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited by Pingyponies; 02-02-18 at 10:02 PM. Reason: wrote the wrong title!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Best way to handle a spooky horse?

    How capable do you feel you'd be with a double bridle/two sets of reins? That would solve your concerns with the bit, so you'd only have to really use the stronger set when you really need it.

    Besides that, I'd take two approaches. First off, work on getting and keeping control. Make sure he's mannerly on the ground and in that habit of listening to you if this isn't already the case (although it can't hurt to perfect this), then address the ridden aspect. When he's settled, try some activities to get him thinking and listening eg polework, quick transitions and so on. If he's napping or getting strong, circle him. Make him turn until he's ready to go forward quietly - be calm about it, just gently present him with the choice of turning or walking. Keep practicing and he'll learn to pick the easier option. If you think he's going to take off, turn tightly until you have control again.

    Secondly, address the fear of motorbikes. Do you happen to know anyone who has one to help practise this? Ideally you want someone you can trust to help you out and spend some time getting him used to walking around them, gradually building to the bike driving past him.

    Above all else, you need to help yourself stay calm. If he's picking up on your anxiety, it will only exacerbate the situation and make him more likely to panic. Try singing to yourself, or asking him to leg yield/bend/anything to keep both of you thinking about the riding and not the bike. If you're struggling to stay calm, there's no harm in getting off and leading him past the bike or until he's settled again.

    Hope this helps and my apologies for the essay!

  3. #3
    Old nag
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Posts
    5,240

    Default Re: Best way to handle a spooky horse?

    What happened to your spooky mare from your last post? Did you manage to work anything out with her? I see this is a gelding so not the same one obviously.

    Two reins are a good suggestion if you can handle them. But if not I would always prefer to see a slightly stronger bit used sensitively than a rider hauling away at a snaffle. You really need to speak to your regular instructor about that.

    For the fear of motorbikes - start by seeing if you can get an old one possibly from scrap and park it where he can see it and walk past it regularly. Move it about from time to time so he gets completely used to seeing it and walking past it. then you need a friend with one that works. Start by getting him used to it just being their held by a human. Progress to pushing it past him with the engine off, then standing with the engine running gradually getting closer etc. etc. It will take time.

    General ground handling / spook busting will also help build his confidence in you generally. You could get an intelligent horsemanship practitioner (or similar) to help. Or look at books like Kelly Mark's complete confidence.

    For the jogging - it could be nerves but it also could be excess energy / excitement. Look at what you are feeding and see if you can cut out and excess sugar or starch which might be making your life more difficult than it needs to be.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Best way to handle a spooky horse?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shay View Post
    What happened to your spooky mare from your last post? Did you manage to work anything out with her? I see this is a gelding so not the same one obviously.

    Two reins are a good suggestion if you can handle them. But if not I would always prefer to see a slightly stronger bit used sensitively than a rider hauling away at a snaffle. You really need to speak to your regular instructor about that.

    For the fear of motorbikes - start by seeing if you can get an old one possibly from scrap and park it where he can see it and walk past it regularly. Move it about from time to time so he gets completely used to seeing it and walking past it. then you need a friend with one that works. Start by getting him used to it just being their held by a human. Progress to pushing it past him with the engine off, then standing with the engine running gradually getting closer etc. etc. It will take time.

    General ground handling / spook busting will also help build his confidence in you generally. You could get an intelligent horsemanship practitioner (or similar) to help. Or look at books like Kelly Mark's complete confidence.

    For the jogging - it could be nerves but it also could be excess energy / excitement. Look at what you are feeding and see if you can cut out and excess sugar or starch which might be making your life more difficult than it needs to be.
    It's the same horse from the other post, i just wrote he was a mare in case people i knew came across the thread! you know how judgmental people in the horse world can be!. I persisted with him and we have grown a good bond over the past year and our riding was going well until recently!. I am looking into getting a dually headcollar so i can walk him out without the risk of him dragging me about, or possibly getting a cheap bridle to walk him out in, don't want to use my nice one in case he bolts and breaks it!.

    I have him on a calmer atm to take to edge off and has seemed to worked as he is a lot calmer than before.

  5. #5
    Sport horse
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Posts
    356

    Default Re: Best way to handle a spooky horse?

    I am very concerned for the horse and you. This business of how to deal with a spooky horse or one that's had a big scare is being dealt with elsewhere here but for simplicity I'll repeat my twopen'arth. You should not repeatedly do things that result in the same outcome - it's the definition of stupidity!

    And very, very dangerous if you are encountering these motorbikes out on public roads.

    Do not ever get off a horse that's being troublesome - if you can't control it from the saddle where most of the controls are - you have a fat chance of doing it from anywhere else.

    I say this as someone who went against his own best advice not to get off and lead because my International School of Equitation instructors said it was acceptable even within their illustrious standards- Phah! - my lovely gentle mare nearly killed me. She waggled her big front paws about my face, hit me with one in the shoulder and came down on one foot smashing my toes - and I am quite a big bloke. Just because the local church had a big thermometer showing the progress of their fund raising activities - godknows what my mare thought it was but she wouldn't go passed it and my attempts to cajole and coax merely turned her into a quivering wreck.

    You also have to consider that the main bonding process between you and your horse is gaining his trust but you won't get it by continually presenting the same fright. Some horses do get used to scarey things through familiarity but I'm sure they are only internalising the problem rather than anything else.

    Hack somewhere safe.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Best way to handle a spooky horse?

    Quote Originally Posted by OldFogie View Post
    I am very concerned for the horse and you. This business of how to deal with a spooky horse or one that's had a big scare is being dealt with elsewhere here but for simplicity I'll repeat my twopen'arth. You should not repeatedly do things that result in the same outcome - it's the definition of stupidity!

    And very, very dangerous if you are encountering these motorbikes out on public roads.

    Do not ever get off a horse that's being troublesome - if you can't control it from the saddle where most of the controls are - you have a fat chance of doing it from anywhere else.

    I say this as someone who went against his own best advice not to get off and lead because my International School of Equitation instructors said it was acceptable even within their illustrious standards- Phah! - my lovely gentle mare nearly killed me. She waggled her big front paws about my face, hit me with one in the shoulder and came down on one foot smashing my toes - and I am quite a big bloke. Just because the local church had a big thermometer showing the progress of their fund raising activities - godknows what my mare thought it was but she wouldn't go passed it and my attempts to cajole and coax merely turned her into a quivering wreck.

    You also have to consider that the main bonding process between you and your horse is gaining his trust but you won't get it by continually presenting the same fright. Some horses do get used to scarey things through familiarity but I'm sure they are only internalising the problem rather than anything else.

    Hack somewhere safe.
    I was always told to never get off the horse as you have more chance controlling on its back than on the ground but many people have suggested ground work and getting off to reassure him it is okay. I do not hack on roads, it is a small lane that leads off onto forestry, motorbikes are not allowed in there but they still do (we report any we see) so it's not all the time that we see them which is why when we do see them, it is 10x scarier for him as he hasn't been around them for a while, if that makes sense.

    Are you saying that there is no way to help this problem through gaining his trust more around them on the ground?. If so is there any suggestions you have on how i can over come this as i am not willing to sell him on and give up without trying!.

    Thank you for your comment.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Best way to handle a spooky horse?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pingyponies View Post
    I was always told to never get off the horse as you have more chance controlling on its back than on the ground but many people have suggested ground work and getting off to reassure him it is okay. I do not hack on roads, it is a small lane that leads off onto forestry, motorbikes are not allowed in there but they still do (we report any we see) so it's not all the time that we see them which is why when we do see them, it is 10x scarier for him as he hasn't been around them for a while, if that makes sense.

    Are you saying that there is no way to help this problem through gaining his trust more around them on the ground?. If so is there any suggestions you have on how i can over come this as i am not willing to sell him on and give up without trying!.

    Thank you for your comment.
    There are ways to get over issues but usually the owner requires help from someone more experienced, you can do groundwork to help gain his trust but unless it is done correctly it will reinforce the issues he has not help you sort them, getting off may help but if done at the wrong time may make matters worse and put you in a vulnerable position.

    Anyone buying a horse must factor in training as an ongoing requirement/ expense even the most experienced people need help at times and sometimes do admit they have taken on more than they can cope with, you are not at that stage yet but if you don't get some help soon you may well end up having an accident, trying to offer advice without knowing your capabilities is not easy, changing the bit may help but in some cases it will make matters far worse.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Best way to handle a spooky horse?

    Quote Originally Posted by be positive View Post
    There are ways to get over issues but usually the owner requires help from someone more experienced, you can do groundwork to help gain his trust but unless it is done correctly it will reinforce the issues he has not help you sort them, getting off may help but if done at the wrong time may make matters worse and put you in a vulnerable position.

    Anyone buying a horse must factor in training as an ongoing requirement/ expense even the most experienced people need help at times and sometimes do admit they have taken on more than they can cope with, you are not at that stage yet but if you don't get some help soon you may well end up having an accident, trying to offer advice without knowing your capabilities is not easy, changing the bit may help but in some cases it will make matters far worse.
    Yes i understand this, i have asked for help from others around me and they are willing to help but it is hard to always have their help with conflicting schedules, that is why i am seeking advice from people online who may have had to handle things like this themselves.

    I have thought of selling but my boy is the most loving, caring horse you could come across, he's good in every other way, will stand for hours to be brushed and fussed by kids and is really patient. He is a good pony to hack for the majority (he is only 14hh) this is the only major issue i have with him, which is why i do not want to give up as i know if we can overcome this, i will have myself a great little pony. I am aware i am putting myself at a risk with riding a spooky horse, but he is predictable in his spooks, like i can tell when he's going to spook by his body language before it happens so it is not as if he is plodding along and then is suddenly running in the opposite direction. It's more like "oh my god i can hear it i have to go!!". I'm sorry if this explanation is a bit all over the place but i am trying to explain to the best of my abilities.

    I have been riding many years and i used to have a lot of confidence with old loan ponies, i was on the floor with one of my loan ponies more than i was on her back so it is not like i haven't dealt with challenges before, but with my current horse (my first purchased horse) i am more nervous when riding him which i don't understand why because he's never done anything awful whilst riding except run from bikes. He has never full bolted, the most he has done is break off into a very fast trot, but i do think if he was frightened enough he would do a proper bolt (as a lot of horses would).

    I hope this helped with explaining my situations a bit more!

    Thank you.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Best way to handle a spooky horse?

    A professional, which is what you need, will work around your schedule, will have a plan of action and should help you move forward, asking "people around you" who may not have time or enough experience is not the answer, you can get the confidence to overcome this and use it as a positive not negative stage of your riding/ owning a pony, he sounds as if he lacks confidence and that a few lessons would make the world of difference.

    Bolting/ not bolting makes no real difference, he runs away/ spooks from things he is scared of because you are not riding him with enough purpose, the fact he stops without going far is great but he should not be worried enough to overreact in the first place, every time he spins spooks, runs off the habit is becoming more ingrained and his confidence gets lower, he needs to have his confidence built up and if he is predictable it should be fairly easy to stop before it develops, when he gets tense you need to remain calm and relaxed, keep a firm hold, get your legs on and ride him forward with purpose, it is not helpful to do what many people do 1 start to pat them, "rewarding" the preparation to spook, 2 look about wondering what they have seen or heard, 3 allow them to stop or slow down, 4 take your legs off, by doing 1,2,3 or 4 you are inadvertently allowing or even encouraging him to follow through with the spook.

    A good trainer will show you how to deal with it when it is actually happening.

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